The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Eavesdropping on Conversations Between Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama”
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
In the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s record-breaking memoir, Becoming, she recalls her pre-White House days like this: “As a full-time working mom with a spouse who was often away from home, I became well acquainted with the juggle many women know—trying to balance the needs of my family with the demands of my job.” Indeed, this pressing issue facing many women today has been addressed in several books, but the one that stands out is Lean In (2013)—because the author is Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. A well-received work, one reviewer commented, “I don’t think you should sell yourself short way before it’s time [to have kids] . . . Sheryl calls this leaning in, instead of leaning back. Your tendency might be to cut back and, for example, not take a promotion, because ‘you’ll have kids soon anyway,’ but that’s exactly wrong, because it will lead you to make career decisions that are guaranteed to make you miserable by the time you actually have kids.”
Apparently, Mrs. Obama doesn’t agree with Sandberg, for during her recent book tour, she said, “It’s not always enough to lean in, because that ‘s***’ doesn’t work all the time.” Feeling frustrated, she added that “women can’t experience equality in both their professional and personal lives ‘at the same time,’ calling the idea a ‘lie’ and arguing that ‘marriage still ain’t equal, y’all.’” And coming from her, that’s saying something; after all, who would question Mrs. Obama’s qualification to carve out her own political career if she had chosen that path. But this Harvard trained lawyer became, in effect, a stay-at-home mother of two daughters after her husband became the POTUS. Clearly, the motherhood elicits in Mrs. Obama immense pride, for it is said that she identifies herself first as Malia and Sasha’s mom.
So, if you are a woman caught in this dilemma, whose idea do you lean on? Now meet my two middle-aged cousins who are married with children. Both are highly educated, having attended arguably the top women’s college in the U.S. and earned professional degrees from Ivy League schools. My lawyer cousin, who is politically left-leaning and no fan of Donald Trump, has been a stay-home-mom to three children (her husband’s profession makes this possible); while the other cousin, a mom to two small children who once served as a staff at a conservative church, is presently the sole breadwinner. But ideologically, this is ironic, since my left-leaning cousin should have a career outside the home, while my cousin who leans to the right should be a stay-home mom.
But in real life, “[we] do not know what tomorrow will bring”—meaning, unpredictable and unplanned things happen, and when they do, people don’t always make decisions based on their political ideology (“What would a feminist do in this situation?”), but just respond. I’ve seen this happen to people close to me one too many times: both of my siblings lost their spouses when their children were very young. (Sandberg herself knows this all too well.) What life goals they had—perhaps based on their political ideals—were shelved in lieu of responding to their new day-to-day reality: “Lord, give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11) or sanity. I think my working cousin—who loves kids—would rather stay home, but that option was taken off the table once her husband began facing health problems. And if my lawyer cousin was hoping to rush back to her career, she and her husband certainly did an odd thing by adopting a baby from overseas. So, what’s on their mind? The few times I spoke to them in the past, I heard neither frustration nor elation relating to their career (or absence of it); rather, they were concerned with raising their children to be conscientious and generous human beings who take their faith seriously.
The way women (i.e., families) deal with the tension between work and home won’t always look the same—on occasion it’s the man who becomes a stay-at-home dad—because of variables not under their control, extenuating circumstances, or even lifestyle choices that are reasonable. What’s important amid this tension is that “on [God] we . . . set our hope that He will continue to deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9b) from life’s many challenges, including, “train[ing] up a child in the way he should go; [so] even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Ultimately, whether to get married or to have kids is a personal decision to be made amid much prayer. But once we have children, the responsibility of raising them falls on those who decided to have them. And the goal of Christian parenting isn’t to raise our children to be the next Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandbergs, but individuals who love God and fear Him. There is no work more valued, vital and difficult than that; and without being on our knees, it’s not possible.
Prayer: Lord, as a man, forgive me for not appreciating all the heavy lifting our women do in order to keep everyone in the family alive! We pray for the women in our lives, that they would stop every now and then to be able to hear Your approval of them in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 8
Tomorrow’s Blog: “‘The Marriage Still Ain’t Equal’ but for a Different Reason Than Mrs. Obama’s”
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 18:1-3:
After this Pau left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
And from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
“She [Ruth] said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
Questions to Consider
Note that what’s addressed in the morning devotion is a class-bound discussion—meaning, it is an issue encountered mostly by women with means and options, and not necessarily those who have no choice but to work to put food on the table. Wendy Kaminer, a former board member of ACLU, once put it this way: “Why do some young women on Ivy League campuses, among the most privileged people on the globe, feel oppressed? Why does more middle-and upper-class whites feel oppressed than among lower-income women and girls, of color?”
- Three women are seen in the three passages we read above. What do they have in common? What are they all doing?
- Some teach that mothers with kids should stay home to raise them. Yes, that is ideal and part of the biblical picture, but what about those mothers who really don’t have that choice? Are the two Acts passages clear about the sociofamilial status of Priscilla and Lydia? What if they were married or single-parents with kids? Do you think women like Ruth, who lived in an ancient agrarian society, never joined others in sowing and harvesting after she became a mother? What do you think? If she did work, then, what would that mean?
- You are a professional man or woman with kids at home. You have a big house, nice cars and plenty of money in the bank. One income is not going to wipe you out, especially if you lower your living standard. Now God’s Word says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8). It further says that one of the good deeds we can do is “bringing up children.” We are not necessarily talking about breaking God’s principle here (i.e., sins leading to both short- and long-term consequences) but not heeding God’s precepts (i.e., unwise choices leading to long-term repercussions). Your move.
- They all worked to make a living: Ruth was a day-laborer, Priscilla was a skilled worker, and Lydia was a business owner catering to high-end clientele (indicated by selling purple goods).
- My point is that not every father or mother can afford to stay home to take care of the children, because they just don’t have the financial means to do it. I, as a pastor, need to teach God’s principles and precepts (see question 3) on this matter and let the parents prayerfully and honestly make their decisions, but with God’s kingdom and children’s best interest in mind. The final decision may look different from family to family.
- Really personal response.
Are you married with kids? The best you can do for them is to pray consistently for them. If that has not been your practice, do it right now and then do it every day from here and out. Are you aspiring to be the next Sheryl Sandberg? While I don’t know much about her, one thing I do know is that she abruptly lost her husband over a freak accident—another reminder of how brittle and fleeting life can be. Yes, do all that you can to prepare for a robust career, but remember to heed what King Solomon, who had it all to his great disappointment, declared at the end: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth . . . The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccles. 12:1, 13).